This week is UK Parliament Week, the highlight of my year because I’m a massive nerd. UKPW is an annual festival run by parliament to engage people from all over the UK learning about how parliament works.
For a wide range of reasons, this is the first year that you might be paying attention to how your MP votes, and want to get more involved in democracy. So we wanted to start the week by talking briefly about how parliament works, and how you get in touch with your represented officials.
In the UK we have 2 Houses which make up our parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Lords is filled with nominated peers and hereditary peers, This means that Lords are either nominated by government or there because of their family. Some people want to reform the House of Lords because they think it’s an unfair system. You can read more about that here.
The House of Commons is the house where Members of Parliament (MPs) debate issues and propose new laws. MPs represent a geographical community, called a constituency, and represent the people who live there. They do this by starting or supporting campaigns, debating issues, passing new laws and advocating for people.
All MPs seats are voted in every general election, or in special circumstances one of elections can be held if a seat becomes vacant. This kind of election is called a by-election.
If you are based in Worcester, your MP is Robin Walker. You can find your MP on the parliament website, where you can also find their contact details and a detailed voting record. If you're not quite sure what their voting record might mean, They Work For You is a website which offers an overview on how MPs have voted on a broad range of issues. If you look up how MPs have voted on specific votes, it's important to remember that some MPs may have voted certain ways because of issues that arise which are not necessarily obvious in the title. For example, it could affect jobs in their constituency; or they could have national security or privacy implications. If you want to discuss their view further, you can contact your MP, or you can read transcripts of debates to see if the MP contributed.
If you would like to talk to your MP, you can write to their office. You can write to them with specific problems you’re facing, or to ask them to expand things they have said or their voting intentions. It is important that you include your address on anything you write to your MP, so MPs are only responsible for their constituents.
MPs can be members of political parties, or stand as independent candidates. The party with the most MPs after a general election is asked to form a government, they can do this alone or work with another party to form a coalition government.
Members of the public can become members of political parties, where they can attend annual conferences, and vote on key issues - including choosing the new party leader. People choose parties for a variety of reasons, but usually because their personal values mirror that of the party.
If you’re interested in getting more involved in politics, you can watch all debates that take place in Parliament on Parliament TV, which you can watch online. Some are also available on BBC Parliament.
You could also engage with parliament and other democratic organisations around you via social media. But, remember that MPs may not always answer your queries on social media and if you want to contact an elected official, the easiest way to do so is by emailing their office.
Over UK Parliament Week, we’ll be sharing more resources via our social media, and you're welcome to get in touch if you want to learn more. If you have any questions about getting involved in local democracy, we will try and signpost you to someone who can help. However, we’re not allowed to offer any partisan opinions, which means we can’t recommend any particular party or show any preference.